Houston Astros

Houston Astros Fantasy Baseball Daily Bullpen Updates and Closer Depth Chart

Closer 1st in line 2nd in line 2015 Closer Updated
HOU Chad Qualls Tony Sipp Josh Fields Chad Qualls 8/28/14
(DL) Jesse Crain Matt Albers

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Previous updates:

August 29, 2014
Houston Astros – Chad Qualls, who earlier this month was nursing a few minor injuries, got Thursday off after pitching in back to back games. Tony Sipp picked up his second save of the season in his place.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Fields.
August 28, 2014
Houston Astros – Chad Qualls learned on Wednesday afternoon that he would be staying in Houston; unfortunately, he blew the save that night with another awful outing against Oakland. The A’s have been responsible for three of Qualls’s four blown saves and 11 of his 18 earned runs. In non-Oakland games, Qualls has a 1.52 ERA.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

August 23, 2014
Houston Astros – Chad Qualls was back on the mound Friday night, pitching a scoreless 9th to finish off an Astros win.  He appears to be over the tightness in his lower back that kept him from pitching on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

August 21, 2014
Houston Astros – Chad Qualls was unavailable with back stiffness on Wednesday, and Bo Porter surprised everyone by calling on Jose Veras for the save. Veras had pitched only once in the past week, and he let the tying run get as close as the warning track, but he still managed to pick up his first save in six opportunities this season. Josh Fields pitched the eighth and Tony Sipp had thrown 27 pitches on Tuesday, so let’s not get too excited about Jose just yet. Qualls’s injury is not expected to be serious.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

August 1, 2014
Houston Astros – After Josh Fields allowed the tying run in the eighth inning, Chad Qualls suffered his second loss in as many days by allowing the game-winning home run in the ninth. Qualls isn’t in any danger of losing his job, but fantasy owners will be hoping he gets back to his consistent form as quickly as Nolan Reimold’s homer left Minute Maid Park on Thursday night.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

July 30, 2014
Houston Astros – After a clean eighth from Josh Fields put Houston in the rare position to close out Oakland, Chad Qualls gave up five runs to pick up the loss. After the game, Bo Porter defended Qualls, saying that he has been the team’s best reliever all year. And Tony Sipp and his overlooked 12.2 K/9 ratio shed a single tear.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

July 25, 2014
Houston Astros – Though seemingly a prime trade candidate, Chad Qualls is extremely unlikely to be moved, according to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Qualls, who is signed through 2015 and has a team option for 2016, has been a wonderful surprise for both Houston and his fantasy owners, and appears to still be a reliable bet for saves for the remainder of the season.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

July 24, 2014
Houston Astros – Although he admits that he’s been burned before and remains “very guarded,” Houston GM Jeff Luhnow still hopes Jesse Crain and Matt Albers will return to give the Astros a few innings this year in exchange for their combined $5.5 million in salary. Finding the saddest part of that sentence is left as an exercise for the reader. In far less depressing news, Josh Fields has struck out 18 men and allowed only three baserunners in 9.1 innings since his return from the DL. He has the edge over Tony Sipp.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Fields | Sipp.

July 15, 2014
Houston AstrosChad Qualls may have pitched himself out of a job in Houston, and not in the way you may think. He’s been solid in the closer’s role, and we think the Astros will trade him to a team that will have him throw primarily in the eighth inning. Tony Sipp has also been great, which means he may get dealt to a contender as well. That leaves Josh Fields as the lone ninth-inning option in Houston. If Sipp stays, Bo Porter may go to Sipp outright or elect to use Sipp and Fields in a committee. SELL+: Chad Qualls. BUY: Tony Sipp, Josh Fields

July 5, 2014
Houston Astros – Josh Fields was activated from the DL yesterday and immediately used in a big spot in the 7th inning.  He gave up a hit to the first batter, which allowed an inherited runner to score and tie the game, but he struck out the next four batters he faced.  Fields was pitching well before his injury and his strikeout potential (41 Ks in 28.2 innings) makes him a good candidate for high-leverage spots in the later innings.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Fields.

June 30, 2014
Houston Astros – Chad Qualls has been nursing a minor groin injury, so rather than use him on three straight days, Bo Porter called for Tony Sipp in the 9th inning on Sunday. Qualls was warming up just in case and should be fine for the next save chance.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Sipp | Veras.

June 27, 2014
Houston Astros – Yeah, okay, he had an 8.10 ERA with the Cubs in a memorably awful two months earlier this year, but it wasn’t that long ago that Jose Veras was literally the only reliable reliever in the Houston bullpen. The Astros, who signed him to a minor league deal a few weeks back, just called Veras back to the bigs, where he’ll slide into the hierarchy based on experience alone. In our hierarchy and in the real life bullpen, Veras replaces Kyle Farnsworth (who, interestingly, was also holding a spot in both places based on experience alone), who was sent to the minors to make room.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Veras.

June 17, 2014
Houston Astros – Josh Fields became the latest Astros arm to hit the disabled list with soreness in his throwing forearm. Kyle Farnsworth should see time in Fields’ stead. In addition, Houston signed former closer Jose Veras to a minor-league deal.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Farnsworth.

June 13, 2014
Houston Astros – Chad Qualls blew just his second save of the season and allowed his first run since April 19 before the Astros walked off winners in the 10th. Prior to that, Darin Downs earned a hold with an inning of work spanning the seventh and eighth frames. However, the southpaw faced three lefties and won’t be a major factor in the Astros’ late-inning plans.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Sipp | Fields.

May 30, 2014
Houston Astros – One million points to the person who picked up Josh Fields right after he was called up from AAA on May 14. When the one-time closer was sent down, his ERA was an even 12.00. Since returning? 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 13 K. Fields got the win last night, pitching two clean innings before giving way to closer Chad Qualls, who now has an 11.1-inning scoreless streak of his own. Tony Sipp, meanwhile, who was signed off the scrap heap, and still has a 0.00 ERA through 9.2 absolutely dominant innings (1 H, 1 BB, 13 Ks). That adds up to a 29 scoreless innings for the top three Astros relievers. What the hell is going on here?

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Fields.

May 18, 2014
Houston Astros – The Astros signed former Mets closer Kyle Farnsworth and immediately used him in the 8th inning with a 3-run lead.  He struggled, giving up 2 runs while only recording 2 outs, but the Astros don’t have much else, so Farnsworth should continue to see time in the later innings.  Chad Qualls pitched a perfect 9th inning for his 3rd save of the season.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Farnsworth.

May 17, 2014
Houston Astros – It sounds like manager Bo Porter is tired of having a different guy blow each of the Astros’ save opportunities so he has finally chosen one guy.  Porter said yesterday that Chad Qualls will be their closer moving forward.  Qualls has not allowed an earned run in his last 9 outings.

Hierarchy remains: Qualls | Sipp | Zeid.

May 15, 2014
Houston Astros – Last September, we called the Houston bullpen a “hellscape.” It’s somehow worse now. Jesse Crain won’t be added to any roster for another two weeks. Matt Albers is out until mid-June. And now Anthony Bass is on the DL with a strained oblique. To make matters worse, Josh Fields — who has somehow allowed 14 runs in his last 3 IP — is replacing him on the roster. This hierarchy looks a lot like Cerberus.

Hierarchy change: Qualls | Sipp | Zeid.

May 6, 2014
Houston Astros - Raul Valdes was designated for assignment, with LHP Darin Downs called up to replace him. The Astros also signed Tony Sipp, who will be their best left-handed option behind Qualls and Bass in the bullpen.  Hierarchy change: Tony Sipp to 2nd in line, replacing Raul Valdes.

May 3, 2014
Houston Astros - Bo Porter said on Friday that Josh Fields would be used in lower-leverage situations.  Porter went on to say that he still does not have a set closer, but he mentioned Chad Qualls and Anthony Bass as the main guys he would use in the 9th. Hierarchy change: Qualls | Bass | Fields. 

April 28, 2014
Houston Astros – Raul Valdes got his first save of the season on Saturday, and on Sunday, he was summoned to get the final out of the game. It wasn’t a save this time around, but Valdes has as good of a chance as anyone to get a few more 9th inning look in Houston. Hierarchy change: Raul Valdes to 2nd in line, replacing Anthony Bass.

April 27, 2014
Houston Astros – The Astros entered the 9th inning with a 4-run lead but they had to make it interesting.  Most of the usual suspects in Houston’s bullpen had thrown a lot of pitches on Friday, so manager Bo Porter went to lefty Raul Valdes after the lead was cut to one.  Valdes struck out both batters he faced for the save.  Nobody is pitching well in the Astros bullpen, but Valdes could see more save opportunities if he can continue to get lefties out.  No hierarchy change.

April 26, 2014
Houston Astros – Things somehow keep getting worse for the Houston bullpen, as Matt Albers hit the DL yesterday while would-be closer Josh Fields got destroyed again.  It’s still probably Fields and Chad Qualls who are the best bets for saves in Houston, though Anthony Bass or fresh face Jose Cisnero (who closed for the Astros for like 30 seconds last year) could still be in the mix.  Unless you’re in the deepest of leagues, it’s unlikely you want any of these guys.  Hierarchy change: Chad Qualls to Set-up, Anthony Bass to 2nd in line, Matt Albers to DL.

April 24, 2014
Houston Astros – So much for pleasant bullpen news out of Houston. Pitching for the third straight day, Josh Fields coughed up the lead and the ballgame on two singles and a three-run blast. With Matt Albers unavailable with shoulder tightness, Bo Porter didn’t have many other options. More bad news: Jesse Crain still hasn’t thrown a pitch in rehab, and won’t be up for at least a month. No hierarchy change.

April 23, 2014
Houston Astros – It’s nice to have a relaxing Astros update for a change. Josh Fields got the save on Tuesday, and he didn’t even allow a hit! No hierarchy change.

April 20, 2014
Houston Astros – The Houston committee continues to struggle, with Chad Qualls being the latest to blow a save in a horrific 9th inning on Saturday.  We’ve previously complained that Matt Albers hasn’t gotten any opportunities despite being the best arm in the bullpen (which he reinforced yet again with a clean 8th inning yesterday), and we have to think that after yesterday, he has at least moved ahead of Qualls in the Houston hierarchy.  Hierarchy change: Matt Albers to Set-up, Chad Qualls to 2nd in line.

April 13, 2014
Houston Astros - It seems like every pitcher in the Astros bullpen (except of course Matt Albers who has pitched the best) gets a chance to close out games.  Manager Bo Porter went to Kevin Chapman for the 9th inning with the Astros up 1 and he promptly gave up the game tying homerun on his 2nd pitch.  Anthony Bass ended up getting the save in the 10th inning.   Bass now has 2 saves (which is more than the 1 k he has on the season) but it’s hard to say that he is the guy moving forward.  If you have bunch of free roster spots go ahead and pick up everybody in the Astros bullpen.  Otherwise pick your favorite and hope for the best.  Hierarchy change: Anthony Bass to 2nd in line, replacing Matt Albers.

April 11, 2014
Houston Astros – After Chad Qualls pitched the 8th, Josh Fields came on for the 9th inning in a 5-run ballgame yesterday.  But Fields, who previously had been considered the likely leader of Houston’s closer by committee, had his worst outing of the year, allowing three runs to score.  With Matt Albers on paternity leave, Anthony Bass was called upon to bail Fields out, and Bass picked up his first save of the year.  Houston’s bullpen is more volatile than any other team’s in baseball right now, so Bass could certainly get another opportunity like this in the future, but for now, we still consider him to be behind Fields, Qualls, and Albers.  No hierarchy change.

April 7, 2014
Houston Astros – So, unfortunately, it looks like the Astros are serious about this committee thing.  On Sunday, Chad Qualls was called upon to put out an Anthony Bass fire, and retired the final two hitters for his first save of the year.  Of the three relievers that Bo Porter tapped to share the stopper role in Houston before the season started, it’s actually Matt Albers who has been the best — he’s thrown 4.2 scoreless innings with 6 strikeouts and 0 walks.  But so far, Qualls and Josh Fields are the ones with one save apiece.  We still like Fields the best of these three, as he’s been used only twice, and both times was given the keys to the 9th inning.  But get used to seeing Qualls and Albers in the Vulture Save Watch indefinitely.  Hierarchy change: Chad Qualls to Set-up, Matt Albers to 2nd in line.

April 2, 2014
Houston Astros – Josh Fields picked up the save for the Astros tonight, pitching a sterling 9th after Matt Albers threw a strong 1.1 innings ahead of him.  Chad Qualls was nowhere to be found.  Fields said for much of the spring that he wanted the job, and Bo Porter has already talked about using Qualls and Albers against lefties, suggesting Fields is the guy when there’s a righty-heavy ninth inning, which should be more often than not.  Though this will probably still be a committee on paper, Fields now has the edge and has become the 4th middle reliever from our preseason top 15 to already ascend to a closer position.  Hierarchy change: Josh Fields to Closer, Matt Albers to Set-up, Chad Qualls to 2nd in line.

April 2, 2013
Houston Astros – In the first sign that Houston’s closer-by-committee system will be as unpleasant for fantasy owners as it is for the players involved, putative “closer” Chad Qualls was summoned Tuesday in the eighth inning, up six. We still think he has the inside track at the most save opportunities with Jesse Crain out, but it’s best to think of anything you get from any Astros pitcher as gravy. Specifically, the gravy that dog food makesNo hierarchy change.

March 23, 2014
Houston Astros – Manager Bo Porter has said that he will go with the dreaded closer by committee to start the season.  Chad Qualls has the experience so we still expect him to see the most save chances, at least at the beginning of the season.  Josh Fields, Matt Albers, and lefty Kevin Chapman should be in the mix and Porter also recently said that Anthony Bass has emerged as an option.   No hierarchy change.

March 13, 2014
Houston Astros – A spotty history and two legitimate competitors combine to drop ursine righthander Chad Qualls to the bottom of our spring rankings. To add insult to injury, Matt Dominguez trounced him in the second round of Astros March Madness. Ranked #30 in our preseason closer rankings.

March 7, 2014
Houston Astros – The Astros enter 2014 with one of the most wide open bullpens in all of baseball.  After stumbling to the finish line in 2013 with one of the worst cadre of relievers in recent memory, Houston picked up Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, and Jesse Crain to bolster the back end of their bullpen.  Josh Fields, Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Zeid, and Kevin Chapman are among those likely to fill out the bullpen, and depending how it shakes out, nearly any of those guys could conceivably be the closer by the end of April.  We like Qualls out of the gate, as manager Bo Porter said in February that he values Qualls’s previous experience.  Fields finished the season as closer last year, and has said openly that he wants the job, so he could be Qualls’s early competition.  Crain would likely be challenging for the position as well, were he not a little bit nicked up.  And though Zeid finished last season strong, we’ll give the 2nd in line spot to Albers, based on his tenure.  Starting 2014 hierarchy: Closer – Chad Qualls, Set-up – Josh Fields (Jesse Crain injured), 2nd in line – Matt Albers.

September 24, 2013
Houston Astros – One week into our prediction, Josh Fields and your mother are tied in recent saves, and she has a decided advantage over his recent 2.00 WHIP. No hierarchy change.

September 17, 2013
Houston Astros – It was a slow night for closer news, so we’ll take the time to point out that, over the weekend, Bo Porter confirmed what we’d suspected for weeks: Josh Fields is officially the Astros closer. We forecast him to earn precisely one more save than your mother over the next two weeks, and she might be easier on your WHIP. No hierarchy change.

September 12, 2013
Houston Astros – The ever-in-flux Astros bullpen went to Josh Zeid for the last out of the 8th inning on Wednesday, and then left him out there for the 9th, where he picked up his first career save.  After a rough stretch in August, Zeid has only allowed four earned runs in his last 13 innings, which is good enough for a prominent role in Houston.  Hierarchy change: Josh Zeid to Set-up, Kevin Chapman to 2nd in line.

September 10, 2013
Houston Astros – Chia-Jen Lo entered with a one-run lead in the seventh and exited with a one-run deficit. Lo has been pretty bad over the last three weeks (9 ER, 8 H, 7 BB, 7 K, 7.2 IP), and lefty Kevin Chapman — who earned the win with a clean eighth on Monday — has to have passed him for vice-president of the Astros’ putative closer committee. Josh Fields still holds the top job, although his latest save included a solo home run by former Sacramento Kings center Mariners shortstop Brad Miller. Hierarchy change: Kevin Chapman to Set-up, Chia-Jen Lo to 2nd in line.

September 6, 2013
Houston Astros – Josh Fields picked up a four-out save on Thursday night.  Though we’ve listed him as our “closer” for the past month, regular readers of this page know that he’s rarely been actually used in that fashion — there was just no one else who was pitching well enough to be promoted on our hierarchy, so Fields remained at the top of the pecking order by default.  Given the general ineptitude displayed by almost everyone else given a crack at the 9th, however, the Astros finally turned back to Fields, and the righty delivered.  Last night’s successful outing will probably earn him the chance to take the job and run with it.  No hierarchy change. 

September 5, 2013
Houston Astros – The Astros are attempting to have every player in their bullpen blow a 9th inning lead at some point, and last night, it was long man Erik Bedard’s turn.  Bedard, who ended up getting the win after Houston rallied in the bottom half, isn’t likely to see many save opps going forward as he’ll usually be pitching multiple innings at a time.  No hierarchy change.

September 4, 2013
Houston Astros – The one positive story in Houston’s bullpen — Kevin Chapman beginning his career with a streak of no earned runs in 13 appearances — came to its eventual end on Tuesday night. As a competent lefty, Chapman likely has several good seasons ahead of him. No hierarchy change.

September 3, 2013
Houston Astros – If you’re still chasing saves right now, you’re probably in your fantasy playoffs — and if you’re in your fantasy playoffs, you’ve probably stayed far away from the hellscape of the post-Veras Houston bullpen. The events of Labor Day won’t inspire you to change that sound plan: after a solid sixth and seventh from putative closer Josh Fields, Kevin Chapman let an inherited runner score to tie the game. Chia-Jen Lo came out for the ninth, which might have been enough to edge him past Fields in our hierarchy. If, that is, Lo hadn’t loaded the bases in time for a Chris Colabello grand slam. On the bright side, Houston’s minor league teams have the best combined record in baseball. No hierarchy change.

August 27, 2013
Houston Astros – With Josh Fields (three straight appearances) and Chia-Jen Lo (31 pitches) unavailable on Monday, Josh Zeid was first out of the bullpen in a save situation. Zeid was used ahead of Kevin Chapman, who is still being wielded mostly as a lefty matchup guy — which is precisely why he was summoned after Zeid put runners on second and third. Jordan Lyles, who threw 115 pitches against the Blue Jays just last Friday, wound up with the save after Chapman walked his man, but Chapman holds his spot in the Houston hierarchy: Astros relievers are likelier than most to need matchup help in save situations. No hierarchy change.

August 26, 2013
Houston Astros – After picking up the save on Saturday, Chia-Jen Lo was summoned in the 9th inning on Sunday, ready to tighten his grip on the Houston closer role.  However, Lo had an absolutely miserable outing, as the first four hitters he faced reached base, including three by walk.  After walking in the game-tying run, Lo faced one more hitter, then was yanked, and eventually was saddled with the loss, as the Astros continue to look for someone to seize hold of the closer role.  No hierarchy change.

August 25, 2013
Houston Astros – Chia-Jen Lo picked up his second save of the season on Saturday night.  Since the Veras trade the Astros have alternated between Josh Fields and Lo. Fields picked up saves on 8/5 and 8/14 and Lo picked up saves on 8/13 and 8/24.  Both guys are worth owning right now if you are desperate for saves and the next couple save opportunities could clarify whether or not one of these guys will become the primary closer.  No hierarchy change.

August 20, 2013
Houston Astros – Infielder Jake Elmore pitched the eighth inning of an 11-run blowout last night, retiring three Rangers in order and quite possibly earning the next shot at an Astros save. Hierarchy change: Jake Elmore to 2nd in line, replacing Kevin Chapman. Okay, just kidding. No hierarchy change.

August 19, 2013
Houston Astros – Kevin Chapman got the last two outs on Sunday to pick up the save for the Astros.  Chapman is a left-hander who has only pitched a full inning once in his seven appearances since getting called up.  He is not a threat to take the job full time but he could see an occasional save opportunity based on match-ups. Hierarchy change: Kevin Chapman to 2nd in line, replacing Josh Zeid.

August 17, 2013
Houston Astros – The Astros held a two-run lead entering the 9th inning on Friday, and Chia-Jen Lo began warming up.  Houston would tack on four runs in the top of the 9th, ruining the save situation, but Lo would pitch the bottom half anyway, extending his scoreless streak to 7 appearances.  Josh Fields got the first two save chances since Jose Veras’s trade, but Lo got the third and would likely have gotten the fourth last night if there had been one; the Taiwanese righty might be in the driver’s seat for saves now in Houston.  No hierarchy change.

August 15, 2013
Houston Astros – The latest reliever to leave the Houston organization? Aussie former set-up man Travis Blackley. Meanwhile, Philip Humber, who hadn’t been seen since he gave up 5 runs in less than an inning three months ago, coughed up a one-run lead in the seventh. Did we mention you’re pitching the sixth for the Astros tomorrow? Get to Oakland by 8:30 am; they’ll cover your cab fare from the airport, but no tip. No hierarchy change.

August 14, 2013
Houston Astros – One challenge in figuring out the Houston bullpen is that they win so very rarely — last night’s victory was but their second in August and fifth in over a month. This time, it was Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia-Jen Lo who got the call for the save, although he was inches away from losing the game to a Chris Young home run. It’s likely still a committee arrangement, but we’ll be watching to see if Bo Porter rides Lo again. No hierarchy change.

August 13, 2013
Houston Astros – With the departure of Wesley Wright to Tampa for cash considerations, the lowly Astros are down to one player — Erik Bedard — who makes more than 6% over the league minimum. No hierarchy change.

August 8, 2013
Houston Astros – Just a week and a half ago, Jose Cisnero was almost everyone’s pick to close for Houston after the trade of Jose Veras.  Now, after another rough outing yesterday, Cisnero is headed to the minors.  Also in Astros news, Josh Fields followed up a dominant first save chance with a hideous second appearance, as he gave up 3 runs in the 9th inning to the Astros.  Though he was never officially the full time closer, last night’s drubbing will make it less likely that he gets the next save chance.  If he does get passed over next time, Chia-Jen Lo is the next best candidate; he’s got a 0.00 ERA through 4 innings.  Hierarchy change: Josh Zeid to 2nd in line, replacing Jose Cisnero.  Josh Fields to Hot Seat.

August 7, 2013
Houston Astros – On Tuesday night, Jose Cisnero entered the game with two on and one out in the sixth inning, his team trailing by three — a vitally important spot in the game. Unfortunately for Cisnero and the Astros, he immediately surrendered a three-run homer, then scattered three walks and a solo shot among three retired batters. The Astros are still closing by committee, but we have to acknowledge that Josh Fields has the best shot at the next save opportunity, with Chia-Jen Lo also moving in front of the struggling Cisnero. Hierarchy change: Josh Fields to Closer, Chia-Jen Lo to Set-up, Jose Cisnero to 2nd in line.

August 6, 2013
Houston Astros – Houston’s bullpen situation isn’t getting any clearer. Monday night, Bo Porter played matchups in the ninth, using Wesley Wright to start the eighth, then summoning Josh Fields to face Mike Napoli with two outs. Fields, who was selected from Boston this offseason in the Rule 5 draft, struck out Napoli, then stuck around for the ninth; all he did there was strike out the side for his first career save. Although some on Twitter are ready to anoint him the new closer, we suspect this is just what an actual closer-by-committee approach looks like — note that Fields has a 6.00+ ERA, has allowed baserunners in six straight appearances, and pitched the eighth down a run on Sunday. Four strikeouts in four at-bats is quite a statement, though, and if Porter wants to return to a more conventional ninth-inning approach, Fields has a strong case. Hierarchy change: Josh Fields to Set-up, Chia-Jen Lo to 2nd in line.

August 3, 2013
Houston Astros – The Houston Astros got their first save opportunity since the Jose Veras trade and four relievers combined to blow two late inning leads.  Unfortunately that doesn’t tell us much about what is going to happen moving forward.  Jose Cisnero started the 8th inning facing the top of the Twins lineup and promptly gave up 3 hits and a run to tie the game.  Wesley Wright and Josh Fields combined to finish the 8th.  The Astros took the lead again in the top of the 9th.  Fields stayed on to start the 9th but gave up a leadoff walk.  Chia-Jen Lo came on with 1 out and gave up the tying run.  The most notable absence in all this was Travis Blackley, but other than that it is hard to know who Bo Porter will go to next time since all his relievers failed him this time.   Hierarchy change: Jose Cisnero to Closer, Chia-Jen Lo to Set-up, Josh Fields to 2nd in line.

August 1, 2013
Houston Astros – The Astros have played two games since dealing Jose Veras, and neither has netted them a save situation, but the clues that have been presented continue to suggest that Jose Cisnero gets the first crack at the closer role, despite Bo Porter’s insistence that he’s using a committee.  Yesterday, Cisnero pitched the 9th in a blowout, picking up a strikeout while allowing 2 hits and no runs.  No hierarchy change.

July 31, 2013
Houston Astros – Bo Porter, who is 2 1/2 years younger than Mariano Rivera, is telling us that any of his seven relievers could be used at any point after the sixth inning. We remain convinced that Travis Blackley and Jose Cisnero have the inside track. No hierarchy change.

July 30, 2013
Houston Astros – In the aftermath of the Veras trade, we suspected the Astros might return to the mediocre Hector Ambriz to protect their vanishingly rare late-inning leads. Houston had other ideas, however, optioning Ambriz to Oklahoma City and recalling two relievers no one has ever heard of: Chia-Jen Lo and Josh Zeid. The seventh-inning role is in flux and could be filled by any of several lousy options: Josh Fields and his sparkling 6.35 ERA, lefty Wesley Wright, who boasts a 1.46 WHIP, or even Lo, who was pitching in the low-A New York-Penn League just five weeks ago. We think Zeid, who had a 10.92 K/9 ratio and 13 saves in 15 opportunities at AAA, is the best of the bunch. Faint praise. Hierarchy change: Josh Zeid to 2nd in line, replacing Hector Ambriz.

July 29, 2013
Houston Astros – Jose Veras has been traded to the Detroit Tigers. Jose Cisnero is the best bet to close in his absence.  Hierarchy change: Jose Cisnero to Closer, Travis Blackley to Set-up, Hector Ambriz to 2nd in line.

July 17, 2013
Houston Astros – With Houston as bad as expected, Jose Veras is extremely likely to be traded this July — but he’ll probably move into a setup role wherever he ends up. Jose Cisnero is expected to succeed Veras, if necessary. TRADE DEADLINE BUY/SELL: BUY+ Jose Cisnero, SELL+ Jose Veras.

July 4, 2013
Houston Astros – The Astros optioned Hector Ambriz to the minors.  Jose Cisnero and Travis Blackley should see time in the set-up role.  Hierarchy change: Jose Cisnero to Set-up, Travis Blackley to 2nd in line.

June 27, 2013
Houston Astros – In pitching a scoreless 8th inning last night, Jose Cisnero lowered his season ERA to 2.14.  The young righthander has yet to give up a run in the month of June.  Despite his general competence (a quality not found in most Houston relievers), he hasn’t gotten much high-leverage work; he only has four holds on the season.  But his usage last night is an indication that Bo Porter might be trusting him with more big-game spots.  Hierarchy change: Jose Cisnero to 2nd in line, replacing Travis Blackley.

June 17, 2013
Houston Astros – Travis Blackley got the last out of the 8th inning on Sunday, earning his 11th hold of the season.  In recent weeks, he’s often shared the 8th inning with Hector Ambriz, and has become the go-to lefty in the Houston bullpen, ahead of the struggling Wesley Wright.  Hierarchy change: Travis Blackley to 2nd in line, replacing Josh Fields.

June 4, 2013
Houston Astros - Josh Fields, back from a long stint on the disabled list, was immediately thrust into a high-leverage eighth inning against Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Hierarchy change: Josh Fields to 2nd in line, replacing Wesley Wright.

June 3, 2013
Houston Astros – Jose Veras was given a day off on Sunday after pitching five of the previous six days, as mentioned in the Vulture Save Watch.  Hector Ambriz picked up his second save of the week in his place.  No hierarchy change.

May 31, 2013
Houston Astros – Also predicted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch was a potential opportunity for Hector Ambriz, who struck out two in a solid 9th inning for his first career save.  (It was a good day for the VSW, even despite Mike Matheny’s baffling decision to go to Mitchell Boggs rather than Trevor Rosenthal in the Cardinals game.)  No hierarchy change.

May 21, 2013
Houston Astros – Hector Ambriz is again the first choice for Houston in the eighth innings of close games, while lefty Wesley Wright has been used in earlier matchup situations. Hierarchy change: Hector Ambriz to Set-up, Wesley Wright to 2nd in line.

May 10, 2013
Houston Astros – Hector Ambriz had a terrible outing on Thursday, taking the loss after allowing 4 baserunners while only recording one out; his ERA had climbed to 6.23 by night’s end.  Hierarchy change: Wesley Wright to Set-up, Hector Ambriz to 2nd in line.

May 3, 2013
Houston Astros – Hector Ambriz pitched the 8th inning with Houston up by a run last night, so he’s still the best guess as to who would close if Jose Veras were unavailable. But behind him, the Astros bullpen doesn’t present many options. The team sent Rhiner Cruz to the minors on Thursday, leaving reliable lefty Wesley Wright as the only real option. We’ve been reluctant to add Wright to the saves chart though, as he’s been a matchup guy his entire career, but the Astros probably don’t have any alternatives at this point. Hierarchy change: Wesley Wright to 2nd in line, replacing Rhiner Cruz.

April 21, 2013
Houston Astros – Rhiner Cruz pitched last night with the Astros getting blown out.  He only allowed one run but he allowed six base runners in 1.2 innings and has given up at least one run in his last four appearances.  Hector Ambriz pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Friday night with the Astros up one and seems to have taken over the set-up role again.   Hierarchy change: Hector Ambriz to Set-up, Rhiner Cruz to 2nd in line

April 14, 2013
Houston Astros – Jose Veras blew his first save opportunity of the season last night.  He is still the closer, but remains on the Hot Seat as he has not pitched very well so far this season.  No hierarchy change.

April 12, 2013
Houston Astros – Josh Fields was placed on the DL earlier this week, adding more uncertainty to the least-defined bullpen in baseball.  The Astros are yet to have a save opportunity, so little is known outside of closer Jose Veras.  Rhiner Cruz pitched the 8th inning ahead of Veras in a blowout a few days ago, and he’s had the best start of any Astros reliever, with a 1.69 ERA in five appearances.  Hierarchy change: Rhiner Cruz to Set-up, Hector Ambriz to 2nd in line, Josh Fields to DL.

April 3, 2013
Houston Astros – The Astros got their first look at their (non-Bedard) bullpen in a loss to the Rangers last night, and it wasn’t pretty, as five relievers combined to give up six runs in three innings.  The only reliever to perform well was Josh Fields, who struck out the only batter he faced.  Fields, a former first round pick, is coming off a solid spring, where he posted a 2.53 ERA over 10.2 innings.  Lefthander Wesley Wright, meanwhile, is one of the team’s more experienced relievers, but will likely be used as a matchup guy regardless.  Hierarchy change: Josh Fields to 2nd in line, replacing Wesley Wright.

April 1, 2013
Houston Astros – Erik Bedard, the team’s fifth starter, picked up a 3.1-inning save last night.  Bedard isn’t expected to start for several days and may not appear out of the bullpen for the rest of the year.  However, this doesn’t mean Jose Veras’s job is safe by any means.  He struggled in Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic, and the team has said that he will have to earn his closer spot.  A few bad outings, and the Astros may look elsewhere.  Jose Veras to Hot Seat.

February 24, 2013
Houston Astros – Starting 2013 hierarchy: Closer- Jose Veras, Set-up- Hector Ambriz, 2nd in line- Wesley Wright.

October 2, 2012
Houston Astros – Though Wilton Lopez was available, the Astros went to Wesley Wright for the final four outs on Monday. However, this was a match-up play, as Wright faced off against several lefties in earning his first save of the year. No hierarchy change.

September 24, 2012
Houston Astros – Wesley Wright pitched in the 5th inning on Sunday, and isn’t likely to see any more save opps, even if Wilton Lopez is unavailable. These chances will likely go to Jose Valdez, the team’s AAA closer who was called up in September. Hierarchy change: Jose Valdez to Set-up, Wesley Wright to 2nd in line.

September 12, 2012
Houston Astros – Jose Valdez pitched a perfect 8th inning ahead of Wilton Lopez on Tuesday, earning his second hold of the season. Valdez, a hard-throwing righty, was closing for Houston’s AAA team, where he amassed 66 Ks in 48.2 innings. Hierarchy change: Jose Valdez to 2nd in line, replacing Fernando Rodriguez.

August 5, 2012
Houston Astros – The Astros placed Francisco Cordero on the DL earlier this weekend, and last night, Fernando Rodriguez pitched the 7th inning ahead of Wesley Wright and Wilton Lopez. Lopez earned his first save. Hierarchy change: Fernando Rodriguez to 2nd in line, Francisco Cordero to DL.

July 30, 2012
Houston Astros – Some speculated that Francisco Cordero’s decent outing on Sunday may have saved his job, but tonight, he was the first man out of the bullpen for the Astros. Coming on in the 7th inning, Cordero allowed an inherited runner to score, then gave up the tying run. He also pitched to one batter in the 8th, allowing a leadoff double, before being lifted. Based on his usage tonight, and his general awfulness in his return to the National League thus far, Wilton Lopez looks like he will finally get his shot to finish games. Hierarchy change: Wilton Lopez to Closer, Wesley Wright to Set-up, Francisco Cordero to 2nd in line.

July 26, 2012
Houston Astros – Francisco Cordero blew his second save in two days, making him 0/2 since joining the Astros. After the game, Brad Mills did not say he was removing Cordero from the closer role, only saying that Cordero would not close on Thursday because he’d thrown a lot of pitches over the previous two days. Cordero remains on the Hot Seat at best, and could be removed from the role entirely soon. If that happens, Wilton Lopez would take over in the 9th. No hierarchy change.

July 25, 2012
Houston Astros – When the Astros named Francisco Cordero closer, Wilton Lopez owners groaned, rightfully saying that the youngster was a significantly better pitcher than the 37-year-old righty. But Lopez owners may get their wish soon, as Cordero got shelled in his first save opportunity as Astro, allowing three runs and five baserunners before getting yanked. Francisco Cordero to Hot Seat.

July 21, 2012
Houston Astros – The Astros have traded Brett Myers to the Chicago White Sox. Saturday evening, Astros manager Brad Mills told an MLB.com reporter that Francisco Cordero will close. Wilton Lopez will continue on in his set-up role. Hierarchy change: Francisco Cordero to Closer, Wilton Lopez to Set-up, Wesley Wright to 2nd in line.

July 21, 2012
Houston Astros – The Astros acquired Francisco Cordero from the Toronto Blue Jays in a 10-player trade on Thursday. Cordero becomes an interesting player to watch, as he’ll likely assume the set-up role immediately, and could ascend to the closer spot if Brett Myers is dealt. Hierarchy change: Francisco Cordero to Set-up, Wilton Lopez to 2nd in line.

July 17, 2012
Houston Astros – Wilton Lopez has returned from the disabled list and resumed his 8th inning duties on Monday, throwing a clean inning on Monday ahead of Brett Myers. Lopez could get save chances if and when the Astros deal Brett Myers. Hierarchy change: Wilton Lopez to Set-up, Brandon Lyon to 2nd in line.

July 12, 2012
Houston Astros – The Astros are looking to move Brett Myers, whose has a $10 million option that will kick in if he finishes 45 games. This makes him an interesting trade acquisition, as cash-strapped teams may be reluctant to move him into the closer role if they acquire him. Unfortunately, this also hurts his value, as it further decreases the chance that he’ll close wherever he lands. Brandon Lyon would inherit the job if Myers is dealt, which seems likely at this point. TRADE DEADLINE BUY+: Brandon Lyon. SELL+: Brett Myers.

June 26, 2012
Houston Astros – Fernando Rodriguez gave up 2 more runs on Monday, and his ERA now sits at 6.28 for the season. While he was one of the more reliable relievers for the Astros in 2011, he’s struggled all year long. Lefthander Wesley Wright, meanwhile, now has 10 holds on the season and often stays in to pitch to righthanded hitters. Hierarchy change: Wesley Wright to 2nd in line, replacing Fernando Rodriguez.

June 19, 2012
Houston Astros – Brett Myers had a stunning outing on Monday, allowing 8 hits and 5 runs while only recording two outs. He threw 40 pitches– the most an Astros reliever has ever thrown without getting out of an inning– and was finally yanked for Xavier Cedeno, who picked up his first career save. But despite the horrific outing, Myers has only blown one save on the year and his job is not in jeopardy. No hierarchy change.

June 18, 2012
Houston Astros – Wilton Lopez hit the disabled list on Sunday. Brandon Lyon (2.81 ERA) moves up and stands to nab any save chances when Brett Myers is unavailable. Hierarchy change: Brandon Lyon to Set-up, Fernando Rodriguez to 2nd in line, Wilton Lopez to DL.

June 4, 2012
Houston Astros – Wilton Lopez has quickly and quietly ascended in the Houston bullpen, and pitched the 8th inning ahead of Brett Myers on Sunday. Fernando Rodriguez’s usage has been sporadic, and he has fallen behind Lopez and Brandon Lyon in the Astros pen. Hierarchy change: Wilton Lopez to Set-up, replacing Fernando Rodriguez.

May 20, 2012
Houston Astros – Brandon Lyon, who is completely healthy for the first time in a while, has been solid all month, lowering his ERA to 1.76. With Fernando Rodriguez unavailable, Lyon pitched the 8th inning yesterday, setting up for Brett Myers. Hierarchy change: Brandon Lyon to 2nd in line, replacing Wilton Lopez.

May 2, 2012
Houston Astros – Wilton Lopez, who pitched parts of the 7th and 8th innings last night, has surpassed veteran Brandon Lyon on the Astros depth chart. Hierarchy change: Wilton Lopez to 2nd in line, replacing Brandon Lyon.

April 24, 2012
Houston Astros – Brandon Lyon has been slipping behind Fernando Rodriguez on the Astros’ depth chart, a fact that was made clearer last night when Brad Mills called upon Lyon to pitch the sixth inning, down three runs. Hierarchy change: Fernando Rodriguez to Set-up, Brandon Lyon to 2nd in Line.

March 19, 2012
Houston Astros- Brett Myers was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen after the trade of Mark Melancon and will start the season as the closer. Brandon Lyon, who started the season as the closer last year, figures to the get the first shot at closing if Myers struggles. Starting 2012 hierarchy: Closer- Brett Myers, Set-up- Brandon Lyon, 2nd in line- Fernando Rodriguez.

Dec. 15, 2011
Houston Astros- With the trade of Mark Melancon, the Astros will probably give Brandon Lyon another shot at closing. Lyon, in the 2nd of a 3-year, $15 million deal with Houston, was hampered by injuries last year but will be healthy to start the season. Hierarchy change: Brandon Lyon to Closer, replacing Mark Melancon.

Aug. 29, 2011
Houston Astros- David Carpenter logged a save in the 11th inning last night, after the Astros had used up Melancon and several of their stronger relievers. No hierarchy change.

Aug. 26, 2011
Houston Astros- With Sergio Escalona on the DL with elbow tendinitis, Wilton Lopez has reclaimed his role, pitching in three straight games. Hierarchy change: Lopez to 2nd in line.

Aug. 21, 2011
Houston Astros- Sergio Escalona struck out 3 in 1.2 innings of work last night, and has been called upon more often than Wilton Lopez in close, late-game situations over the past several weeks. Hierarchy change: Escalona to 2nd in line, replacing Lopez.

Aug. 18, 2011
Houston Astros- Fernando Rodriguez pitched the 8th inning in Houston’s 4-3 win against the Cubs. The Astros don’t get many save opportunities, and when they do, they’ve been mixing and matching in the 8th, but Rodriguez has had a strong month and has moved past Wilton Lopez on the Houston depth chart. Hierarchy change: F.Rodriguez to Set-Up, Lopez to 2nd in line.

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